Europe’s Courts Fail to Deliver Justice to Roma Abused by Police Despite Overwhelming Video Evidence

Europe’s courts have once again failed to deliver justice to Roma individuals who have been subjected to police abuse, despite the presence of compelling video evidence. In a recent case, the City Court in Kosice, Slovakia acquitted 10 police officers accused of forcing six Romani children to engage in violent acts against each other in a police station back in March 2009. This marks the third time the court has acquitted the defendants, even after the Constitutional Court of Slovakia ordered a re-examination of the case last year.

The video recordings from the incident clearly show the police officers shouting racial slurs at the Romani children, ordering them to strip naked, and threatening to unleash dogs on them. In one particularly disturbing clip, an officer even put his gun to the head of one of the boys and forced him to kiss his shoe. The evidence, which was eventually leaked to the press after the officers shared the videos with their colleagues, seemed to be overwhelming.

However, despite the disturbing footage and testimonies from the victims, the City Court of Kosice dismissed the case twice, citing “inconclusive evidence.” The presiding judge argued that the perpetrators could not be visually or audibly identified from the video evidence, leaving only the testimonies of the victims as the basis for the court’s decision. Due to the young age of the victims at the time of the incident and the passage of time, their testimonies were often contradictory and became even more muddled as the case dragged on.

Following two acquittals, the case was taken to the Constitutional Court, which acknowledged the violation of the victims’ constitutional rights during the judicial proceedings and ordered a re-examination at the City Court level. However, on February 22, the same judge who oversaw the previous dismissals acquitted all the police officers once again, citing insufficient evidence. The public prosecutor has already filed an appeal against this latest judgment, and the case will be brought before the county court in Kosice soon.

This recent acquittal by the Kosice City Court is the second instance in less than six months where a court has dismissed a case involving police brutality against Slovak Roma, despite the presence of video evidence. In September 2023, the European Court of Human Rights also dismissed a case against Slovak police officers who were filmed attacking Romani individuals during a police raid in Zborov in 2017. These cases highlight a concerning trend where video evidence alone does not guarantee justice in cases of police brutality against Roma.

Unfortunately, this issue is not limited to Slovakia. In the Czech Republic, video evidence of police killings and assaults against Roma individuals has also failed to convince the legal system of the guilt of the officers involved. The lack of accountability and the structural racism within the judicial systems of these countries have created an access to justice crisis, affecting not only Roma communities but also other marginalized groups.

Author: CrimeDoor

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